Bonus Sermon Content: After Earth

after earth poster

After Earth is a film about rescue.

A son (played by Jaden Smith, The Karate Kid) must race across a hostile Earth, after the ecological endgame, to retrieve a device that will save his father (Will Smith, awe…), and himself. In order to accomplish this, he must understand fear, what it is, what it isn’t and most importantly: How to master it.

Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Now do not misunderstand me: Danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story, and that day mine changed.

After Earth is a very subdued film for a Blockbuster. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the narrative balances the cool silence of space with the erratic dissonance of an earth that has turned against its human inhabitants.

The net has no shortage of interviews between the father and son team. Here’s a brief one:

Some review have led readers to believe that this summer blockbuster is an ode to Scientology. David Gibson’s article, “Is Scientology Unwatchable?” makes the claim.

“The news is not good for the new movie “After Earth,” which means the news is not good for Sony Pictures, or Will Smith … or, it seems, Scientology, whose sci-fi inflected religious system inspired what was to be a summer blockbuster. Now it’s looking like a summer bust.”

His article references a rather opaque interview with the film stars that hems its way through Scientology ‘like’ conversation, and then on to family business. You can read that article here.

After having such a promising start, director M. Night Shymamalan hasn’t had a hit film in quite a stretch. Fast Company interviewed the director and what the readers get is lesson in…humility.

You can hear the sermon here.

After Earth Website
After Earth on Facebook

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How to Fear (Not) God

There’s a ton of things to be afraid of.
Let’s just be honest.
My daughter’s afraid of spiders…well, bugs, actually.
Some of my friends fear death, but they’re actually more afraid
I’ll call them up on stage and make them preach.

Some people fear clowns, and let’s face it: Legit Fear.

Parents fear something will happen to their children.
Children fear something will happen to their parents.

And then there are the deeper fears.
The fears we fear other people will find out about.
The fears that shape us and control us.

I fear insignificance.
That I won’t even be a blip on the historical horizon.
That I won’t make in impact.

Loss of control

Sometimes we can fear these things more than we fear God.
We believe these things can ruin our live more than we think God can transform them.
We are enslaved by fear more than we are seduced by grace.

What do you fear more than God?

I’d really like to know.

Late edition: My friend Kris from the Pungoverse dialed in this response for his podcast, Route 9. Kris is a friend from high school, wicked astute and sports legit credentials from Apple (sorry bro, had to brag).

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Waiting For The End Of The World?

Thought these might help.

OR in another form…

mayan circular calendar

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Demons and other people who think differently than I do

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

I don’t tend to stray into the politiverse, and this post won’t be any different. Since Hell is definitely on our minds, I offer this to pyre of recent discussion. I haven’t read Coulter’s new book and won’t read it. So this isn’t a review. This isn’t even a guess as to what’s inside the cover of Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America.

We ought to be careful who we label demons, and why we are labeling them. Do we mean little impish things with horns and bad breath? Or are we doing something more sinister than the image itself: trying to control the emotional and imaginative response of the listener by suggesting an image that evokes fear? Is all this about provoking fear? I think it is.

When people think differently than we do, or I do, we tend to resort to the kind of mythology that creates a hero and a monster, like Theseus and the Minotaur. In Coulter’s case, we have Demons and, I suspect, the rival Angels. The problems with this are many, especially for those of us who follow Jesus (which we’ll come to in a moment). For one, this is an explicitly religious metaphor. Demons serve Satan and Angels serve God. While drawing from these characters of the Bible displays at least a handle on flannel board theology, it dangerously strips all humans of their ability to think, not just the ‘liberal mob.’ Angels carried the messages of God, they are not known for original thought. Demons, I suppose, are the same with Satan. They carry out the will of the one they serve. Both, in Scripture are rather horrific, but neither are famous for their independent will or thought.

The problem with developing a culture of fear in politics, faith or anything else for that matter is that it creates an uncritical and unthinking audience. Humans become machines for which fear becomes the fuel, souls become shields and reason becomes an afterthought.

Furthermore, who wants to have anything to do with demons? We want to avoid them at all costs. By painting a group of people as ‘demonic,’ it creates a new class of untouchable, a new group of unclean, a new dehumanized ghetto (Nazi much?)…a new Samaria. When a man asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by naming a group of people who were the hated of the hated. The Samaritans were the ones whom the Hebrews prayed that God would pour out his wrath upon, and I imagine they were willing to help. But Jesus instructed him, as he does us today, to enter into the world of the Samaritan and give life saving, life honoring love. Jesus didn’t call the Samaritan woman at the well a demon, he offered her living water. He didn’t change her ‘party affiliation’, he transformed her from the inside out.

Last week, I watched this talk given at the Mighty Waters Conference at Fuller Theological Seminary. The preacher is Brenda Salter McNeil and her words are astounding. I think she addresses this fear culture with grace and obedient thunder. The speaking starts at 9:00 (Mark Labberton and Fuller President Richard Mouw are in that first nine minutes.

MW Session 2 Day 2 from Fuller Seminary on Vimeo.

Today, the Church needs the courage to speak out on behalf of those whom pop authors label as demons. The Church is called into the new Samaria. The Church has one choice, to see all people as people that Christ loves and wants to welcome in the eternal Kingdom of God. It means that words like them and they and those people and this mob or that mob become distant memories of a language that did not speak with intelligence or authority.

There is a new word: Us. When we speak Us, no one is a demon. When we speak Us, worlds change, children thrive and names become a blessing. When we speak Us, the Kingdom draws closer, Jesus is glorified and the Spirit moves without limitation.

So what’s it going to be? Courage or fear? Us or just another tired and abrasive version of them?

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faster vengeance and slower justice

Thinking about fear as a motive for vengeance, today. It’s been on my mind quite a bit, actually. Lots of vengeance going on lately. Fear makes vengeance make sense. It makes vengeance rational, beyond a spiritual rationale. Vengeance becomes necessary when we fear that justice won’t be done. And justice is important. Justice belongs to all humanity. It is withheld by evil, true, but heaped upon the earth by good.

Fear demands revenge.
Faith awaits justice.
Fear believes that no one will hear the cry of the oppressed.
Faith believes that God will…if not in this life temporally, then beyond it eternally.

Recently, I watched the movie Faster. Make no mistake, this is a movie about vengeance. And quite honestly, when you watch it, it’s simple to make the mental adjustment necessary to completely buy into it. When a wrong has been done. It begs to be righted. Faster is movie about a man who has suffered a kind of wrong that needs to be avenged. There is a need for justice to be served…

And so pursues it…hunting the men who killed his brother in cold blood and left him for dead.
It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of Dwayne Johnson.

In the letter to the Hebrews, there is another idea at work. In a passionate sermon on perseverance, the ability to go on despite injustice, the writer proclaims:

“Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.

For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.”
He also said, “The LORD will judge his own people.

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:29-31)

Um…that’s a scary statement. It’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I think what the author of Hebrews is trying to communicate is that it’s OK to trust that God will right injustice. And when God does this thing, it will look different than we expect it will (Isa 55:8). It doesn’t look like toting a .44 magnum and performing the God like task of taking life. God’s judgment will not appear very human at all. Eugene Peterson writes that judgment looks like:

The biblical word judgment means “the decisive word by which God straightens things out and puts things right.” Thrones of judgment are the places that that word is announced. Judgment is not a word about things, describing them; it is a word which does things, putting love in motion, applying mercy, nullifying wrong, ordering goodness. This word of God is everywhere in worship.
Eugene Peterson, “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction“

I remember seeing, on the day Osama Bin Laden was killed, the New York Times headline that read, “Bin Laden Killed By US Forces In Pakistan, Obama Says, Declaring Justice Has Been Done.” How would the writer of Hebrews respond to that statement? Possibly, simply by restating something like this, “…Declaring Revenge Has Been Done.”

In the Hebrews passage, the Greek word for ‘terrible’ is a derivative of the word for ‘fear’. I think that what makes the hand of God, the hand that dispenses justice so fearful, is that it’s terrible for everyone. Righting wrong with divine love, cosmic mercy and unfathomable goodness isn’t what victims cry out for. It’s not what evil condones and doesn’t sound all that much worth waiting for. What if judgment looks like reconciliation? [For those who need there to be punishment, don't worry. In cases where reconciliation happens somebody's going to hate it!] But that’s the business of God…pouring justice upon the needy, avenging evils, vanquishing the enemies of the righteous.

Perhaps, humanity would be satisfied and give up our desire for vengeance, if Jesus would just do it all a bit…FASTER.

What say ye?

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shoveling lava into your brain

Reading Watchmen Nee is like shoveling lava into your brain through your nose. I can read a whole paragraph of his writing before I have to reassess my whole approach to The Way (Acts 9:2-3). There is something so visceral and austere, if you will, about the way he describes the life of faith…of Christian faith. I respond to it in little bites, Neelets.

Today, our prayer reading came from a compiled Nee quote out of the NLT Mosaic Bible (this is a fantastic Bible and meditation material). Before I read it, funny enough, we were talking about a Presbyterian’s inclination to place thinking and analysis over experience and understanding. Thought I’d share:

This matter of the…Trinity of the Godhead is one which we cannot use our mind to comprehend. When the Lord was in the flesh, He told the disciples clearly that at that time He could not speak much with them, for they could not bear it; but when the Spirit of reality would come, He would lead them into all reality (John 16:12-13)…He could not come into them. He could only be outside of them. He had already told them much and if He were to tell the more, their mind would not be able to comprehend. But when He would rise from the dead…the Spirit entered into them, He would then be in them and bring them into all reality to enjoy the Triune God. We cannot…simply use our mind to understand the mystery of the Father, Son and Spirit; The conclusion of mental analyses is certainly that the Father is one, the Son is one and the Spirit also is one; thus the Father, Son and Spirit are three Gods! This is the reasoned judgment of your mind. But if you check with your own experience, you will declare that the Lord who dwells in you is surely one…If you follow your mental understanding you will be puzzled, but by your own experience you are clear that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are the three persons of the one God.

Proverb 1:7 makes a similar affirmation, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Fear is experiential; it is rooted in memory and imagination

It is thinking and analysis that move a person beyond fear; as in, “take some deep breaths.”
It is possible that thinking and analysis can move a person beyond Fear of the Lord.
And so oftentimes, it does.

If you were to put Fear of the Lord on your emotional spectrum, where would it fall? Right next to zombies and vampires? Feathers and ladybugs? Can your mind ascribe fear that is appropriate a cosmic, life-giving, soul affirming deity? Probably not. Like Nee writes, experience informs the way we relate to Christ. We can’t begin to fear him, to live in constant awe and heart stopping reverence, if we try to think our way into it.

This is why we need to experience the Lord.
To imagine.
To remember.
To confront him in Scripture and in community.
To be confronted by him in all his fullness.

Luke tells this great story in Acts about a man named Saul who encountered Jesus on the open road. He was confronted, confounded, blinded and converted with a panicked heart. It took the full reality (as Nee puts it) of Jesus to shake him from the grip of a false reality in order to experience a more real one.

Think on these things (2 Tim 2:7)

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